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This baby blog is officially 1!
And what a crazy last year it’s been.
A little over a year ago, I was looking for ways to scale up my previous expat blog.
I wanted to rebrand and change the kind of content I was sharing, one that would be easier to monetize and scale.
A lot of you have been curious about what exactly I do here and how this can ever be a money-making business.
You see, where I grew up (India), the idea of running an online business (especially led by a woman) is somewhat of a wonder.
Don’t get me wrong. There are excellent Indian bloggers and excellent female travel bloggers, but I am yet to come across one that actually writes and reports about how to make a living from (travel) blogging.
This is pretty much the only reason I go into so much depth of what goes on here behind the scenes.
To make people understand, believe and see for themselves how your lifestyle can be funded by an online business. These posts are not fun or exciting, and rather a bit intimidating because it feels like a public report of all your successes and failures.
A lot of people in India either don’t know what a blog is and those who do definitely do not think it is something that you can convert into a business.
After reading a thousand blog income reports, heavily dominated by western bloggers, I asked myself if they can do this why can’t I?
This made me REALLY think about what the goal of this new blog would be that I started exactly one year ago.
And if I am being honest, I tried a TON of things before I really narrowed down my niche to what it is now.
For those of you here for the first time, Indian Girling is a destination (Europe) travel blog, but I also have an active and engaged audience of newbie bloggers as well.
I write predominantly about budget travel and online businesses. I sometimes write about monetization but it is not my primary focus.
You can find past income reports here:
- Can You Make Money From A Travel Blog? How I Made $426 In Three Months
- Blog Income Report: How I Made My First $1000 With A Part-Time Travel Blog
Alright, now that the basics are out of the way, let me tell you quickly what you’ll find out in this post:
- Blog Milestones
- Blog Income
- Blog Traffic
- What worked
- What definitely didn’t work
⇒I’ve saved a surprise announcement for the last, so stick around until the end!
- BLOG MILESTONES
- BLOG INCOME
- BLOG TRAFFIC
- WHAT WORKED
- WHAT DIDN’T WORK
- WHAT’S NEXT (SURPRISE)
Before we talk all about blogging income, traffic, and all that jazz, let me share with you a few milestones that I think for me were MONUMENTAL.
Not only in boosting my income but my confidence as well.
Even though I’m a fairly confident person, this is an entirely new undertaking for me as well.
I wasn’t a pro website designer or a online marketer when I started.
I taught myself every god damn thing, and I still have so much to learn!
Here are the major milestones that for me were quite insane:
- I launched my first eBook: Europe Trip Planner and that went on to become an Amazon Kindle Bestseller. SAY WHAT.
- I launched two more small digital products, a Europe Trip Planner Toolkit, and a Travel Blog Monetisation List.
- I launched two free courses and a paid course.
- I grew my email list from under 50 people (who were basically friends and family) to over 800.
- I crossed 25K monthly sessions and moved over to Mediavine (a premium ad-management network) at the end of Month 9.
- I grew my social media followers from <5000 to over 17000.
- I got invited by a state government for a press trip to cover an event for Nobel Prize Winners. (SAY WHAT!)
And you know what’s even more insane?
In this period:
- I went from a full-time Master student (plus part-time worker) to a full-time worker. This means I spent less than 15h/week on my website on average.
- I traveled to 5 new countries and took about 5 more small trips in this period.
To people, who look for excuses and say that they “don’t have enough time”.
Here’s a newsflash: YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME.
That’s just how life is, mate!
Regardless, you do have 24 hours in a day.
If you work 10 hours per day, you still have 14 more hours to go.
Cut down your time spent on Netflix, mindless Instagram scrolling, drinking beers, and start using that time to BUILD SOMETHING!
It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want to reap the fruit (aka money), you have to put in the HARD WORK and START.
Ain’t no shortcuts to success!
right, which brings me to:
Let’s be honest.
You clicked through to this post to know how much this blog made right?
Are you ready?
Indian Girling made $3025 ( INR 2,007,00)
While it’s not a large absolute amount, this is still an amount that is:
- Twice of India’s per capita income. Just take a second to think how powerful that fact is.
- Enough to cover a 2 month Europe trip or six months in South East Asia.
You know what’s even more mindblowing.
How much I had to invest in this blog to have this return.
My expenses totaled to less than $1000.
⇒NET PROFIT: $2000 (from a 15h/week enterprise)
That’s a 300% RETURN on my money.
And it doesn’t just provide me a return, it also goes back into my blog to make more over time.
Blogging is a business that generates MORE income the longer it’s alive and kicking.
In that sense, it is ENTIRELY different from any other method of saving money that I know of.
If i kept this money in a German savings bank for example, I would have got a -1% return. In an Indian savings institution, it would be a 4-8% return.
You tell me, what’s more appealing 300% or 8%?
You probably are also curious as to how did I make this revenue/income possible?
Here’s a month by month breakdown of this blog’s income (in dollars):
If you are anything like me, you probably also want to know exactly how this income broke down:
- Not included: Free products received to the tune of $200
I’ve listed them in the order of best to worst.
#1 DIGITAL PRODUCTS
As you can see digital products (which existed for less than 3 months) at the point of writing this report, made the MOST.
I have not written a detailed breakdown of the type of product as they are at a very nascent stage and only being marketed to my small email list.
There simply isn’t a long enough period to compare or judge individual performance, but I can tell you this, online courses are WAY more profitable than ebooks, but ONLY if you have a solid audience. (audience=email list)
I wanted to test and see various methods and I’m 100% sure that the best way to go forward with my blog is to create more digital products, at a higher price tag.
But that’s a story for a whole another post.
#2 ADVERTISEMENTSAds came in second, partly due to inflation from April as I moved from Adsense to Mediavine and well that shot up my RPM by a factor of 10.
When I applied for Mediavine, I was told my traffic might not monetize as well as I had less than 50% US Traffic.
However, even at a relatively lower rate of monetization my latest RPM hovers around $9 on a bad day and $14 on a good day.
This is WAY above the $1.5 RPM I was making on Google Adsense.
In case you are wondering, RPM= Revenue per 1000 sessions (sessions= analytics)
I’m yet to complete 90 days with Mediavine so I’m quite positive I will be hitting higher RPM’s especially as my traffic moves to an upward trend.
I have to say, I expected MORE being a travel blogger from this monetization channel.
I honestly find using affiliate links and affiliate marketing exhausting.
This is also my biggest weakness as I cannot bring myself to recommend random products and services that I do not love.
In travel, if a person books a flight from my referral link, I get $0.15. It will take 1000 such booked flights to make $150.
The amount of effort needed to generate revenue in affiliate marketing is disproportional to the consequent income.
To top that off, each affiliate platform has it’s own rigid payout rules, some as ridiculous as Net 125. Who can wait 125 days for a payout for the current month?
I think this strategy would work very well if you have a blog in a different niche such as personal finance, beauty or health. Mostly because average payouts are way higher.
OR a micro niche blog in travel where you have almost no competition on search. Unfortunately, as a travel blogger I also need to compete with travel agencies that eat into my conversions for a lot of programs.
I’m going to be slowly narrowing down to top 5-10 affiliates and focus only on increasing revenue from those. It helps me to work with just a handful that I know convert well.
In the beginning, it is important to max out and keep trying new platforms, until you get a better hang of what’s working and what’s not.
Every blog’s audience, niche and type is different. What works for me, might not necessarily work for every travel blogger in the world.
#4 SPONSORED POSTS
I have focused my last year on building traffic and an audience. Hence, I’ve either not accepted an offer that come my way, or simply not had the time to create content for the same.
This strategy NEEDS time. From pitching, negotiating, content creation, closing, chasing payments, you NEED time.
Time is what I did not have to spare all of last year.
My focus was on creating passive income streams until my audience was big enough to demand a good price for sponsored posts.
Disclaimer: Nothing is really passive, a product selling on itself might “look passive” but months, if not years are spent in gathering that knowledge and building an audience that actually wants to buy it.
Currently, I do not let anyone post on my blog (As a company/brand), I create my own sponsored post (if at all). I only accept guest posts from fellow bloggers.
Thanks to my increase in traffic and audience, I can also now demand a $700-$1000 per post depending on the type of promotion and reject people who are just fishing around for a free backlink.
I have always been clear that this blog is not a “personal dumping journal” but rather a publishing platform that I intend to run as a business.
This is why I’m super picky on taking over sponsored work.
Now to the less fun but the REALLY important part. Or rather the lifeblood of any online business.
I guess if you know a little bit about online marketing and businesses, you will know that it is close to impossible to monetize if you have zero traffic.
The more the merrier is not always better, but it CAN BE, provided you know HOW to monetize your blog.
Here’s a screenshot of my traffic for the last one year:
As you can see, the last year I clocked over 170,000 views, that’s an average of 14166 page views/month, but as the chart shows you, my traffic hit 2 monumental points.
⇒The first peak in November, which came from increased social traffic + posts beginning to rank in Google, about 5 months after I started this new blog and domain.
⇒The second peak in January, which I attribute to Pinterest marketing picking up and bringing TONS of free traffic my way.
SOURCES OF TRAFFIC
Once you know what my overall traffic was, the next logical question is where did this traffic come from?
Well, here’s some more fancy images to give you a better idea:
As you see, social media traffic is at close to 70%. About 80% of it is from Pinterest.
You can get more information on my Pinterest tips in the following posts:
- How To Use Pinterest Hashtags The Non-Spammy Way
- Pinterest Marketing Strategy To Drive Insane Traffic To Your Website
- How To Skyrocket Your Pinterest Followers and Traffic
If you’d like to repeat some of this success super fast, you can use my free course to get some tips to boost traffic ↓
The thing about blogging is that the best way to learn is to fail at something, try something new and never look back.
You have to keep educating yourself, keeping up with trends, and using these tips and tricks to keep working towards your goals.
In this section I will take you through the top tips that worked for me this last year:
#1 Creating content with the reader in mind.
We all read about it. To create an “avatar” or even a target audience, but I never really took this seriously.
6 months in, I had enough data in my Google Analytics to assess which posts were doing well and which absolutely tanked.
This doesn’t mean I was writing crap, it just means I wasn’t writing about stuff that people WANTED TO READ.
Here’s where a lot of bloggers fail, because they write because they want to write. If your blog is your private journal, then that strategy will work, in any other case it wont.
I learnt it the hard way and once I started to optimise my content with the ideal reader in mind, I saw a lot more success.
Here’s a short tutorial on how you can do this for your own blog: (Numbers don’t lie!)
#2 Growing my email list.
You’ve heard it before, “the money is in the list”. It is true.
It took me about 10 optin ideas to nail the ones I have now.
And it took me a switch from Mailchimp to Convert kit and multiple failed landing pages and forms, but I am growing my email list by 200 subscribers/month, which is close to a 0.8% conversion of my blog visitors.
Of course there is a HELLA LOT I need to do in this field, but this strategy has PAID OFF quite literally.
My email list alone has made me over $1500 and that’s when I sucked at growing it for the better half of the year.
#3 Jumping into digital products.
As a new blogger, it is crazy to think that you can have someone buy your product, that you made from scratch.
If you correlate my traffic and income, you will see that the last three months made about 70% of the income on my blog.
In other words I made twice the amount in 3 months than I did in the first 9 months of blogging.
So, what changed in this period?
I made and launched mini-products that I marketed to my email list first, before making my ebook live on Amazon.
And my email list is SO FAR BEHIND what most bloggers recommend to launch with.
Don’t listen to what everyone else tells you.
If you have a product your audience needs, it will sell.
And even if it fails you would still learn a TON from launching your own digital product.
I really believe in the advice that you should fail, and fail fast.
I learnt SO MUCH from my ebook launch and there are probably 100 things I would do differently the next time.
The best part, the ebook sells on auto-pilot through a sales funnel via my email list.
I literally spend zero time and money promoting it.
My advice, start small, test your ideas, use the feedback to create something better and bigger.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
For the first six months, I tried to grow on every platform imaginable. This exhausted the crap out of me, not to mention didn’t help my blog at all.
After this period, once I realized that Facebook & Instagram would NEVER even equal the traffic I could generate from Pinterest & Google, I completely put them on auto-pilot.
I quickly realized that it was more important to be the master of 1 platform and use it to generate traffic and income.
No one has the time, and I definitely didn’t have the money to hire a team to grow every channel for me,
The good news? You don’t need to.
Find what works for you and REALLY figure out how that platform works.
#2 Creating only 4 blog posts per month.
I know some of you may think this is a lot, but I actually think I am way behind where I should be.
And this shows in my google traffic.
As a new domain, you need fresh and high-quality content.
If i could go back and do it again, I would do 2 posts per week minimum.
With long-form content as much as possible.
But well, that time’s gone and I can only use what I learned going forward.
#3 Not investing in my website.
I want to go back to tell myself, “hey girl, investing $100 in a blog, that could earn you thousands, is OKAY”.
For the longest time, I just wanted to DIY everything.
And the last 3 months, I gave up that control a bit.
Mostly, because I HAD to invest in scheduling and automation tools due to lack of time.
How I wish I had done this WAY EARLIER.
I’m finally comfortable investing in learning and using the best tools that help me grow.
There’s a reason they exist.
Don’t be cheap like me. Get the tools you need and the education to help you grow your blog!
WHAT’S NEXT (SURPRISE)
Alright, this might not be a surprise for some of you, especially those on my email list.
But I finally plucked the courage to get a new domain, and start my own:
»» E-LEARNING PLATFORM FOR BLOGGERS & ENTREPRENEURS!!!
I’ve decided to call it Digital Empires.
The platform will provide free and paid resources, courses and tutorials you need to grow your online business.
The focus will definitely be on digital marketing, but it takes so much more than just digital marketing to grow your online business.
You will find a few beginner courses and there’s a ton of collaborations I plan to work and launch over the next year.
For now, I am just taking all of this in.
It’s been a good year.
I’m happy, I’m proud and I’m beyond excited to share what I know with all of you who would like to one day also own a digital business.
I want to thank you for taking this journey with me and coming back here time and again to see what I’m up to!
Let’s get the second year started! 🚀
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I’m Shruti, the founder of Indian Girling & Digital Empires. I believe in creating a life that you don’t need a vacation from.
On this website, you will find tips on how to travel Europe, personal growth and how to become a blogger.